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Governors: Deal imminent in supermarket feud

First Published      Last Updated Aug 22 2014 05:48 pm

Boston • The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire said Friday they're optimistic the long-running dispute that has hobbled a New England supermarket chain will be resolved, perhaps as soon as this weekend, with an agreement to sell the company to its ousted CEO.

In a joint statement issued late Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said they expect the company will restore Arthur T. Demoulas to "operating authority" on an interim basis, pending completion of the sale.

The governors, who have been briefed by all parties involved in the dispute, said they are hopeful employees will return to work and stores will reopen early next week.

Patrick and Hassan also said the company's board of directors has agreed to "forestall taking adverse employment action" against employees who left their jobs in protest of Demoulas' ouster, subject to "reducing their agreement in principle to writing by Sunday."

A spokeswoman for Demoulas, who has previously offered to buy just over half of the company, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Calls seeking comment from the company weren't immediately returned.

Market Basket, which has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, has been in turmoil for weeks since Demoulas' June ouster. The popular CEO was fired by a board of directors controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, the culmination of a family feud that has divided the company for years.

Hundreds of warehouse workers and drivers refused to deliver food to the low-cost chain's stores in protest, leading to empty shelves and millions in lost revenue for the company. Customers supported the employees by boycotting stores, as the company's two new CEOs tried unsuccessfully to persuade employees to go back to work.